Tuesday, 2 August 2011

31.7.2011 - Start of the season

Telescope: 8" Orion DSE
Obs. place: Koivukylä, Vantaa, Finland
Date: 31.7/7.8.2011
NE Lim.mag: ~4.6 (zenith)
SQM-L reading: 17.65 (zenith)
Background sky: 1
Seeing: 5
Transparency: 4
Weather: Nautical twilight. +13°C, humidity 91%, 1019 HPa, faint gusts of wind, moist and NCLs in the northern sky. No mosquitoes!

The new season's here my little porch monkies (don't worry, I'm taking it back)! I have to admit, the difference between last season's last observing session and the new season's first session was quite big. I ended my season on the 25th of April under the fairly dark skies of urban Finland (SQM-L 21.35 - 21.10 and NELM 7.0 - 6.8). On the 1st of August under suburban conditions and twilight skies (sun -11) my SQM-L showed only 17.65 with a NELM of around 4.6! I couldn't even spot the Andromeda galaxy or Double Cluster with the naked eye - the background sky was simply too bright. Still, I'm accustomed to starting the season during the final week of July no matter what. And this time, there were no mosquitoes!

Surprisingly, my key interest was in spotting C/2009 P1 Garradd which I did not manage to see before midnight (sun never below -10) using my 8 inch Orion. Slightly past midnight I look up to the north and saw a bright display of noctilucent clouds. I paused the observing for an hour or so to go to the local field for few photographs, here's an example:

When I got back, I started looking for Garradd again and this time found it without much difficulty @ 80x. Next I wanted to try the new 8-24mm Hyperion Zoom (Mark III) I bought a few months back. It performed quite well and I decided to sketch something while at it so I selected the bright open cluster NGC 7209 in Lacerta. I always see the sort of a lizard-shape in the cluster with the 9th magnitude stars TYC 3605-2563-1 and TYC 3605-2193-1 as the "eyes". The shape is also fairly similar to that of NGC 457 if you will. The next morning, I looked up my previous sketches of NGC 7209 and noticed I had sketched the very same object nearly exactly a year ago! What a great mess-up and waste of time and sketching paper!

NGC 7209 with 8" Orion @ 72x

I did sketch NGC 7243 as well as it was in the region but didn't really like the outcome. I started to sketch the cluster at too high magnification; I noticed it early on but decided to finish the drawing anyway. I've heard many people dislike the cluster but for some reason I've always liked it. It shows several concentrations of stars and is large and bright. Fine, it isn't a real show-piece at high magnification or larger telescopes but what a fine target under twilight skies it is! I also pulled up a study saying NGC 7243 actually is an open cluster and in fact it has 211 members down to 15.5 (v) magnitude with the brightest star being 8.43 (v) mag (Memberships and CM Diagrams of the Open Cluster NGC 7243 - 2008). Here's the sketch and be sure to check out the quick illustration of the concentrations in the cluster here.

NGC 7243 with 8" Orion @ 80x

The next night was clear but I decided concentrate on photography for now as I hiked to a little landfill area few kilometers from our house. From this slightly darker location around 1 am the Milky Way was *just* starting to show in central Cygnus. With some NCLs showing up in the sky again, I posed in front of the camera and took a shot of the view:

On both nights, temperatures were between 14-10°C (57-50°F) with a typical high humidity of around 90% so in a way we're definitely going towards the winter again. The moon will make sure that I won't get a proper start for the season until the end of August and by then I won't have to (hopefully) worry about the Finnish climate for a few weeks. That is if the monsoon season in Arizona decides to give a me a fighting chance...